Friday, May 21, 2010

Zapiro On Prophet Muhammad

This depiction of Prophet Muhammad by cartoonist Zapiro has angered the The Jamiatul Ulama (Council of Muslim Theologians).

News reports say they are seeking a court interdict to stop the Mail & Guardian from publishing the cartoon.

I am a Muslim and a fan of Zapiro. In the past I have taken the position that his depictions of President Zuma, for example, cannot be stifled.

For me it has always been a matter of free speech. And, in this case I think the same is true.

That said it is also apparent that the cartoon will fuel the flames of anti-Muslim sentiment, and I don't expect that was what Zapiro intended.

Already I have come across comments from readers that emphasize the supposed propensity of Muslims to "bomb", "attack", "kill innocents", etc.

With the World Cup just a few weeks away some of the comments fan the nonsense about Muslim terrorism and the World Cup.

See for example these pearls:
"Now why would Zapiro try to irritate these guys before the world cup now. They are not focusing on us, please man. Do your thang after the world cup, not before. They might think you represent the nation, like they thought Mr Bush represented the Americans. Please man, go easy on this subject next time. For sure I would not want to be a statistic."

Or this more graphic one:

"F#cking muslims they'll be flying planes into buildings and strapping dynamite to their kids next."
This nonsense is predictable and Zapiro should have known that the fallout on either side was inevitable.

I understand that most Muslims do not want depictions of the Prophet Muhammad. It is not an edict in the Qur'an, but a longstanding tradition among Muslims.

Zapiro is not a Muslim, South Africa is a secular country and, most of all, the cartoon does not incite violence against Muslims.

Primarily for these reasons I am not standing by The Jamiatul Ulama's actions to get the cartoon banned.

I am not that easily led and offended.

This is an issue of free speech and we live under a constitution that guarantees free speech that does not incite hate or violence.

A few years back I had a Zapiro cartoon on my office door at Portland State University that depicted the prime minister of Israel dressed in Nazi get-up.

I thought it a powerful critique of Israel's inhumane war against Palestinians. It was also a brave stand by Zapiro who is a Jew.

In these contexts, I am hardly offended by this cartoon. There are greater injustices that require us Muslims to stand up.

Acting all sanctimonious and offended about a stupid cartoon is not struggle. It is, however, an indication of just how easily some Muslims are led by their noses.

I remember the words of Libyan revolutionary Omar Mukhtar, seen here in chains before his assassination by Italian fascists in 1931, who said "they are not our teachers, let us not follow them."

Indeed, those who would needlessly make fun of the Prophet or associate Islam and Muslims with acts of barbarous violence do not describe our religion, its purpose, or its content.

"They are not our teachers ...", Islam belongs to Muslims.


Zapiro Credit
Omar Mukhtar Credit

See also "Haffajee supports Zapiro cartoon" in News24.

The Times continues to carry abusive comments aimed at Muslims. I just read this one by a reader called Gumdrop: "Mohammed and his nazi followers can go choke on a fat racist african dick." (May 22, 2010)

I am somewhat shocked by the anti-Muslim sentiment to be found among South African readers, especially in The Times.

Gumdrop's comment is hate speech and should not appear on the electronic pages of a leading newspaper in South Africa.


Dade said...

Well said, Ridwan.

Ridwan said...

Thanks brother Dade. It is a controversial issue and a burning one at this time.

I expect that some folks in my community will be very upset.